By Fred Koenig
A few years ago I lost my Aunt Marilyn. She hadn’t died; I just couldn’t find her. In the preceding five years, nine of my aunts and uncles had died, so I really needed to keep track of the few that I had left. I was in St. Louis, and had my boys with me, so I thought I should take advantage of the opportunity to stop by Marilyn’s for a visit. So I gave her a call. But what I got was an answering machine that was full and couldn’t accept anymore messages.
This worried me, so I called my mother. She told me that Marilyn had fallen recently, had to go the hospital, and was then discharged to a nursing home. She didn’t know which one. I checked with my Mom’s brother, and he didn’t know which nursing home, either. Both live far from St. Louis, and since the nursing home stay was to be temporary, hadn’t kept good track of the address.
This meant Aunt Marilyn was “off the grid” so to speak. There are a lot of nursing homes in St. Louis. There was no way I could call all of them looking for her. She was lost.
Then I happened to think of her church. I was making a stop at the district office, so I called Marilyn’s home church. With only one transfer of the call, they connected me with a person who knew which nursing home she was in, her room number, and could even give me directions to there from where I was. When I walked into Marilyn’s room, she smiled and greeted me casually, as if I was expected. She had no idea she’d been lost to me.
The interesting part about this story is my Aunt Marilyn’s church was Manchester UMC. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Manchester UMC, I should tell you that it’s big. It is 3,500 members, 1,500 attendance and a $400,000 apportionment big, big.
One might think that a church that enormous would have become an institutional bureaucracy that has lost track of individuals and just serves the masses. Yet it was doing a better job of keeping up with its ever-changing family than I was doing of keeping up with the rapidly shrinking family of my own.
Aunt Marilyn did pass on a few years later. The Rev. Carl Schenck lead a funeral as personal as any I’ve ever been to.
Most of our churches, from small to large, do a good job of fostering a sense of family within the congregation. It is my hope this publication and the other communication efforts of the Missouri Conference will help foster a sense of our family connection to not only the other United Methodist Church just down road, but also the 850 other United Methodist Churches in all parts of our state.
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